I’ve been thinking about doing book reviews, so I thought about trying one out today. What do you think of the format? It’s a work in progress. The sectional ratings are out of 10.

The Grammarians    by  Cathleen Schine

Sarah Crichton Books      Farrar, Strauss and Giroux   New York   2019

Synopsis- The lives of  highly intelligent, identical twin girls who tend towards the pedantic. We see their story played out via the help of an archaic dictionary that their doting father brought them home as a gift. The novel takes place in the second half of the twentieth century in New York City and its surrounding suburbs. It would be classified as General Fiction.

The Ratings

Characters- The main characters in this book are not likable. They come off as rude, condescending and boring. If you want characters that you root for, this book is NOT for you. Rating: 4

Plot- There is really no plotline. We see the girls grow up, and while there is a climax of sort, it’s mainly underplayed. You do not wonder what will happen, you wonder if anything ever will happen. If you are plot focused, this book is not for you. Rating: 5

Setting- While there is some colorful New York City in the seventies/eighties references, this is not a lush narrative wherein the location makes the book move along. It could really take place in any urban area with suburbs. If you like highly descriptive novels, this is not for you. Rating: 4

Language- This is the strength of the book. As one would expect with a book titled grammarians, words, and the way that they are used are extremely important. Every section (there are no actual chapters) begins with a word and its archaic definition. There is a clever way that the author makes us look at the word, and the duality of meanings that some words have. If you are entranced by words, you might give this a try. Rating: 8

Structure- The novel is fairly straightforward and in chronological order. It is told third person omniscient, which is a good structure for the novel because we get a peak into each sisters thoughts independently. The novel lacks depth in certain areas, because there are entire parts of their lives that are skipped over. If you want to know EVERYTHING about the characters, it will leave you yearning for more information. While you often get a peak into their souls, there is not much background. Much is left for the reader to imagine or assume what happened. Unfortunately, the reader may not care what the characters are thinking. Rating: 5

Readability- As one could imagine, a book that lacks plot, setting and likable characters is sometimes difficult to get through. If you do not like clever word play and an almost essay like structure, you may have difficulty getting through it. Because of this, I found that I could only read a section or two at a time. There is not an immediate draw to pick up this book and read it. Though only 200 e reader pages, it often seems longer. If you want a page turned, not for you. Rating: 3

Message- This book made me think. While the traditional things on which we base a book are lacking, I still thought that reading this book was a worthwhile experience. There are underlying themes and messages in this book that are highly discussable, and relevant in todays world. After reading the book I was captivated by the thought of what is language, and what does it mean in the greater context of our culture. I will continue to think about this book for awhile, no matter what its shortcomings were, because I think its broader message is that important. Rating: 10

Overall Score: 39/70, which for today we will equate to 3 out of 5 stars.

There are many things wrong with this novel, but at the end of the day I’m glad that I read it. As always, open for discussion with anyone that has read it.




43 thoughts on “Book Review: The Grammarians

  1. Book reviews are odd creatures. I find a book on Goodreads that sounds interesting and consider putting it on my reading list. Then I start looking at reviews… I don’t think that I’ve every picked a book that has anything but reviews from one end of the scale to another. That makes me wonder if I’m simply interested in obscure, rather out-there reading or if reviewing is just so centered on subjective opinion that no one will present basic fact on the writing. I find myself getting worn out and confused and now mostly stick with 2 motivations: Does the book cover catch my attention, and does the synopsis sound intriguing? If so, it goes on my list for later consideration!
    Given that, I would suggest adding a pic of the book to your reviews 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great idea, but it’s very long, for a review. I’d be inclined to put your actual (non-technical) review at the top, so that at least people read that part. I think the authors would appreciate that too. And I’m sure you already review on Amazon and Goodreads, right? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Everyone has their own style of writing reviews, what they like and what they don’t like. I’ve written before about what I find important when looking at reviews depending on where they are posted. It will always be my preference to see a quick view of what a reader thinks (normally in a star rating or a short word opinion like “really liked”). I also normally really need to easily see the genre when it is a blog post review as this helps me see quickly whether I want to take the time to read the whole post/review. I do like the section breakdown. It would help those that skim reviews to see the rating after the section heading, rather than at the end of the commentary. I hope you do more of these!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks! I was trying to think of what I want to see, because I hate spoilers and hate reviews that tell parts of story. Because I’m intrigued by this book I’m going to do a commentary about it tomorrow, but it won’t be a review per se, just what about it made me think.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. One of the things that is awesome about reviews is the fact that so many people do them differently. I may see one insight from one reviewer and something entirely different from someone else. At least a portion of writing a review is for the person writing the review itself. It is a way to talk about the things in a book that made an impact one way or another. I’ve tried to find a balance in writing mine between doing what I need to do for me and providing what I think would be helpful to other readers. I know I don’t always manage it, but that is kind of my goal.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Writing a good review is hard. People want different things from a book, and while some things are important to me, they aren’t as important to others. To me, a book review should guide the reader to the right book for them. There are very few universal Likes or dislikes.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Very thorough and organized, i think a star rating is helpful but find 5 stars too limited and 10 stars too broad, oy vey.
    Why did you pick this book? I suggest you pick a book recommended and do a review.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I was talking about myself or other reviewers. Sometimes you are send a book and asked to review it. I stopped but I was gifted the books. They were not my choice. No offense meant, LA

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not big on reviews because I like to form my own opinions. I had a writing teacher whose novel was skewered by reviewers and the only thing I could think was it takes courage and a tough skin to subject yourself to that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read a lot. I thought maybe if take on reviews. Of course, I need to reinvent the wheel and tailor them to how I’d want to read them. I want to get a opinion if a book is worth the time, but I don’t want them to tell me what happens. Brief synopsis. Then let me figure out if it’s for me.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m trying. It’s really hard, because you don’t want to give the plot away, but you need to try to see who might be interested. It’s all subjective, so reviews should be more focused on type of book

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t read many book reviews (because much of my reading is research-based or historical fiction in the period that interests me). That said, I like the format you’ve chosen. It’s different and seems concise. By breaking it into sections, a reader can focus on what’s most important to them. I’m less certain about having ratings. Let your opinions speak for themselves – no numbers required.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve struggled to write a good book review so I’m impressed by yours. I also dislike reviews with spoilers. I want to know if it’s worth reading not hear a cliff notes version of the book!! Based on your review, I’m intrigued but would not likely choose this book. But if I did, I would know what I was in for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. That’s what I was going for, enough information for one to make an informed decision if something is right for you. I’m with you…I hate when reviews tell the plot or main points. I want to read the book……

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I guess any reviewer speaks from their own perspective. I quite like the way you’ve structured it, except that your ratings are out of ten, whereas most, on Goodreads or Amazon, are out of five. Watch out for misspellings…in the sense you intend, it’s peek not peak. Anyway well done

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello,

    I like your organization, in general. It’s simple, concise, and easy to read. I think it works well.

    The best feature of your review, though, is that you didn’t dismiss the book totally after discovering it having no plotline; you still gave it a chance, a “second life”, so to speak.

    So I think that move on your part, as a whole, made your review more “believable”, and also added a sense of “fairness” and “positivity” to it.

    Well done!
    Chris Bocay

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s